Frank Lampard: Arsenal will need much more than the Arsene Wenger effect to beat Atletico Madrid


Even if Arsenal fans make more of an atmosphere following Arsene Wenger’s announcement that he’s leaving, they still face an extremely difficult Europa League tie against Atletico Madrid. Maybe the home crowd will have a bit more of a bounce about them. A lot of supporters have wanted Wenger to move on for a while and now they’ve got their wish. I’m sure they can create a lot of noise. In truth, when you have a 60,000 stadium, you should be doing that every week but recent circumstances at Arsenal have changed that. There has been talk that the timing of Wenger announcing he is leaving at the end of the season will galvanise everyone to win the competition and give him the perfect send-off. But this is Atletico Madrid, one of the strongest sides in Europe, and it will come down to what the Arsenal players do on the pitch rather than the noise in the stands. We have seen in recent years that whenever Arsenal have been paired against one of the elite teams in Europe, they’ve been knocked out. This means it will not just be a mental challenge for them at Emirates Stadium on Thursday night, but also a test of the practical side, especially in terms of their defending. Atletico have such high-level players going forward, you must be able to defend over two legs and be organised. There will be times where you’re under pressure and if you switch off for a second, you will concede against a team like Atletico. You need full concentration and organisation. You must cut out mistakes and defend as a team. These are things that Arsenal haven’t done for a while. Diego Costa has been a massive influence at Atletico since he rejoined from Chelsea. So it is a huge plus for Arsenal that it looks like he won’t be fit to face them in the first leg. Arsenal have historically struggled with powerful strikers who have an all-round game like Costa. Arsenal still have to worry about Antoine Griezmann. He is an intelligent goalscorer and also a link man who loves getting involved slightly off the front striker. I like his movement in the box. It is no coincidence when players like him arrive in the penalty area and score so frequently. They know where to be. He is a world-class talent. I don’t think Arsenal have the kind of individual to man-mark him. They have to get their lines right and make sure the gap between the defence and midfield isn’t too big. He likes to drift into areas just off the centre-halves. It is the responsibility of everyone to track his runs into the box and that is an area where Arsenal have been found wanting. You have to be focused from start to finish. Atletico were going through a dip at the early part of the season, as we saw against Chelsea in the Champions League group stage, but they have come back to their best now. They’re pushing towards the top of La Liga again and won’t be in the mood to do Wenger and his team any favours.

No comments: